The Blue Bird Corporation was once known as the Blue Bird Body Company and has been the major supplier of school buses since 1927. They now also make transit buses, motor homes and mobile police command units. Albert L. Luce started a former employee with Ford made the first bus in 1927. He used the name Blue Bird because he did not want his last name to be mispronounced.
The first yellow school buses in the United States were covered wagons and soon, the production of the first all steel body bus was introduced in 1937. This replaced the wooden bodied that were so commonly used back then. The war production limited the efforts of making the buses out of all steel. In 1939, the conference of engineers for Blue Bird came up with the color yellow, which is still used today. In 1945 after WWII schools started going through a transition of being a one room school house to consolidating and having bigger schools with different grades, and this began the graded structure in the schools. But it also caused a problem with transportation. Most of the kids walked to school because there were one room school houses with in walking distance. The problem was when the kids got into the higher grades most of the schools were too far for them to walk to and this caused a problem with how to transport the students. This led to a higher production of school buses and the company took off.
In 1952, Blue Bird produced its own chassis, and did not rely on outside production. To this day, they still build the chassis for all full sized school buses produced. Between 1960-1980, they became an international manufacturer of school buses and opened their first plant in Ontario. In 1962, the company opened its first plant in South America. In 1962 when Albert Luce Sr. died, Blue Bird was the fourth largest manufacturer in the industry. There were a total of five other bus manufacturers: Carpenter Body Works, Superior Coach Company, Thomas Built Buses, Ward Body Works and the Wayne Corporation. Out of all school buses produced today, a blue bird is made 1 in every 3. Recession of the 80’s cut into profits and this led to the closing of many different companies. In 1960, Blue Bird also started making luxury motor coaches, with the Wanderlodge. In 1970, the company entered the commercial public transit bus. These proved popular with smaller cities because they had a smaller wheel base and they were easier to get into the smaller towns especially those with narrow streets. They were also more efficient. They also started to make the smaller school buses called the micro and mini birds. These were used to transport special needs children.
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In 2007, there were plant closings to refocus the company on the school bus market. They wanted to improve profits and their market positions. Most productions have been transferred to the NABI’s Anniston Alabama facility. The plant in Canada closed in August of 2007. Also, the Wanderlodge rights were sold to Complete Coach Works. Today the yellow school bus is an American icon and is recognized by both the young and the old.